Psst. Do you think it’s safe to talk?
Sometimes communication with your spouse can be very scary. You want to be open and honest with your feelings and your thoughts, but your afraid it will create more problems for you. You might even feel like you’re trying to walk through a mine field and your afraid if you say the wrong thing it will blow up in your face.
Can you say what you need to say without anyone getting hurt? Can you talk about what you really think or feel? Or will your words be used against you? Will you be ridiculed, insulted, or dismissed? These are very real questions that must be answered.
Communication requires safety
If you want to reach a deeper level of communication where your able to share hearts and not just exchange words, there has to be a sense of security. You have to feel safe to talk. If you don’t feel safe you will withhold your deepest feelings and your most honest thoughts.
Maybe you think there is nothing you can do about this. After all, if your spouse would just make you feel more secure, then you wouldn’t have this problem. But what if there were some things you could do about it?
Overcome false perceptions
1) What’s the danger? The secret to fear is the sense of danger. If you can identify the danger you can more effectively deal with the fear. Maybe there is no real danger and you find that your fears are unfounded. You should carefully consider if the danger is real or imagined.
2) Projected fear. Could it be your fear of opening up to your spouse has more to do with your own personal history and how you have shut down because of some previous bad experience? Many times the baggage we bring into our marriage is the real root cause of our communication difficulties.
3) A policeman, a counselor, or a friend? Your perception of your spouse will determine how safe you feel about opening up to them. If you see your spouse like a policeman, you will be afraid that every word you say will be used against you. If you see your spouse as a counselor you will feel as if you are always being analyzed for a solution. But then, if you see your spouse as your closest friend you will feel free to open up to them your deepest secrets with the trust that they will always have your back.
Then sometimes you may have very valid reasons to feel unsafe to talk to your spouse. Maybe your fears have been justified and you feel helpless to make any real change.
If this is the case you have to know that your health and the health of your marriage is depending on you to overcome this. It will require a lot of work and it can be scary at times, but the reward will be well worth it. So what can you do?
Overcoming real challenges
1) Own your solution. You will never overcome any insecurity by waiting for someone else to change. There is such a powerful truth in the statement that “you teach people how to treat you.” You have to take responsibility for how you allow yourself to feel insecure with your spouse. Just take a minute and think of the people you know who would not stand for being treated in a harmful way. Maybe you know of someone personally. The point is, the reason they would never be treated that way is because they know they are responsible for how they let others treat them.
2) Tackle this problem first. Very often the problems you deal with seem so large that you fail to recognize how important your communication is. If you are not willing to solve the problem of being afraid to talk you will not be able to solve anything else very effectively. The first thing you need to do is set your spouse down and talk about this secret fear you have. Make sure to let them know how you take responsibility for how you have been feeling and that you also take responsibility for how you allow yourself to be treated.
3) Breakdown the barriers. When you start taking on the barriers that keep you afraid to communicate, you have to deal with the barriers and not so much your spouse. Don’t turn this into an attack against your spouse. But enlist their help so that together you can get to the bottom of why you feel afraid. Be honest about your fears and what triggers those fears. And let your love for each other be the dominant factor in overcoming those fears.
1 John 4:18 There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.
4) Encourage your spouse. When there is a breakdown in communication there is a good chance that the fear of communicating goes both ways. To help your spouse understand your fears you can help them work out their own fears as well. Encourage them to share what it is that causes them to shut down and assure them that you love them and you want a healthy, open relationship where you both feel free to discuss anything.
For more on overcoming fear, check out Joseph Lalonde’s post, Danger must be known before fear can be felt.